Fan theories. Fans love theorising them, online culture writers love writing about them in a wry and slightly patronising tone, and then we all love watching them turn out to be vastly weirder and more entertaining than whatever the film or TV franchise in question actually came up with.
And the biggest movies and TV shows get the biggest, strangest fan theories – which is why there are all sorts of truly bizarre and beautiful ideas about what comes next after Marvel’s smash-hit Avengers: Infinity War, many of which we’ve profiled on this very digital noticeboard.
But one fan theory that has truly caught the internet’s imagination over the past year or so is a simple one: what if in the NEXT Avengers movie Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shrunk down, flew into finger-snapping baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin) via the rear and then returned to normal size, exploding him into little Thanos-y chunks in an act of heroism that might be rather glossed over in the Avengers Yearbook?
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No, we're not making this up – that’s a real, very popular idea – and after first being posited on reddit last year (and presented to Paul Rudd himself in the summer) the theory’s suddenly cropped up again in the run-up to the release of Infinity War sequel Avengers: Endgame, and frankly it’s only gaining traction.
Josh Brolin himself also noted the theory by (slightly unpleasantly) miming a difficult passage on the toilet in an Instagram video which he accompanied with the caption #flushanantman, while directors the Russo Brothers changed their Instagram profile picture to reflect it. You wouldn’t have got that in the marketing for The Dark Knight.
This renewed interest has, of course, meant that even more people have been writing about this idea, most taking it at face value, some actually delving into the science with actual biophysicists to try and prove such an attack would be possible.
Paul Rudd, though, isn’t convinced – and neither are we.
“I don’t know – I almost think it’s a question for Thanos,” Rudd said when presented with the theory.
“If there’s one thing we learned from Infinity War it’s that Thanos can take a lot of punishment.”
Rudd’s right – because fundamentally, this isn’t a question of real physics, or accurate biology. This is made-up stuff. The application of force from a rapidly growing Friends cast member, applied to a bejewelled purple bodybuilder with omnipotent control over the universe is hard to test to a peer-reviewed standard in the real world.
But other examples from Marvel’s world of movies and comic books do give some clues as to why exactly the great “Thanus” plan wouldn’t come off:
Back during Marvel’s World War Hulk comic book event we did see what would happen when an Ant-Man tried to do some internal damage to a powerful foe, with Eric O’Grady (a successor to Scott Lang) flying inside the Hulk during one of his attacks on Earth’s heroes and trying to take him out.
O’Grady didn’t try to expand to destroy Hulk, instead attacking his internal organs with flamethrowers, but the result was telling – Hulk suffered no ill effects whatsoever, and O’Grady had to give up.
Thanos, we may assume, is significantly hardier than Hulk at this stage. Near the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, when he had but one Infinity Stone to his name, he fairly easily beat down the Jade Giant, and since then his power has only increased – so who’s to say that a rapidly-expanding, normal human being wouldn’t just get crushed by the power of Thanos’ rectum?
After all, in the first Ant-Man movie, Rudd’s Scott Lang was unable to escape a glass case that was too small for him to expand out of. Based on what we’ve seen – the magical and physical attacks he’s shrugged off – wouldn’t Thanos be tougher than that case, meaning Ant-Man couldn't try it there either?
As we've said, it may not be real science – but there are precedents within the fake rules these movies have made up, and based on those there’s no suggestion that this idea would actually work.
Notably, Ant-Man does escape from that glass case by using one of his shrinking grenades on the glass – it does seem more possible that doing something like this could have an effect on Thanos, perhaps by enlarging part of his own body within itself – but because Thanos’ alien, divinely-enhanced biology is so unknown to us, it’s impossible to really impose any kind of logical science to it.
Look – we know this isn’t really in the spirit of the joke. The cast and crew are getting behind it, it’s a funny idea and it is entertaining to imagine dramatically inert, genuinely disgusting solutions to the Avengers’ dilemma. And who are we to deny anyone the joy of imagining Paul Rudd inflicting severe rectal damage on a CGI Josh Brolin?
But frankly, this Ant-Man-bum-attack love-in needs a splash of cold reality before everyone gets too carried away. No matter how much we all try to convince ourselves it doesn’t really make any more sense for Ant-Man to inny-outy Thanos than it would for him to have destroyed Ultron, or the Destroyer, or any other indestructible robot villains from their interiors. Thanos is mostly indestructible, Ant-Man isn’t, so let’s all cool it.
…unless of course this does turn out to be the truth in which case, we knew and agreed all along.
Avengers: Endgame is released in UK cinemas on the 26th April